GE Haliade-X 12 MW offshore wind turbine

General Electric is working on a ginormous new wind turbine. The largest offshore turbine currently produces 9.5 MW. The Haliade-X will be 12 MW, enough to power 16,000 European homes. Maintenance costs on offshore turbines are mostly independent of size, so building them as big as possible makes economic sense. These turbines will be 853 feet tall. The 351 foot blades are longer than a football field.

GE is spending $400 million developing the Haliade-X, which will be able to perform in low wind conditions, boosting total output. Offshore wind is actually easier to install because transporting the parts can be done by ship. And also, there are far fewer NIMBys 🙂

What explains the move to bigger turbines? Efficiency. The longer a turbine’s blades — the Haliade X’s will be 351 feet — the more wind energy they capture. Larger rotors make a turbine less sensitive to variations in wind speed, which can reduce a turbine’s efficiency. And with offshore wind farms expensive to build and maintain, it makes sense to use bigger turbines rather than more turbines.

“The number of hours at sea for planned maintenance is largely independent of the size of the turbine, resulting in a lower cost to maintain the offshore wind farm with larger turbines,” Vincent Schellings, a product development manager at GE Renewable Energy in the Netherlands, told NBC News.